Who wouldn’t like to spend an afternoon wandering a lush green orchard learning where food really comes from? Top it off with a tractor ride, a little playground time and ice cream–and you’ve got a trip to Eckert’s.
Visiting Eckert’s is practically a childhood rite of passage in the St. Louis metro! The farm fun starts in May with strawberries and goes straight through to winter with pick your own Christmas trees. In between you can come out for blackberries, blueberries, peaches, apples, veggies and flowers. Just check out their ripening schedule for the full calendar.
You would NOT believe the amount of fruit, from peaches to pumpkins, that my kids have picked over the years at Eckert’s farm in Belleville! We’ve also made a few epic mistakes. If you can learn from our mishaps you’ll have the best family adventure ever when you take YOUR family out to the farm.
Check the Harvest Hotline
It’s extremely important to check the Harvest Hotline online or at 618-233-0513 before you go! Sometimes Eckert’s is forced to close the orchard due to weather or crop conditions. The Harvest Hotline also has pricing information.
Think About a Membership
Eckert’s has added a membership plan in 2019. If you have a family of four–and you plan on visiting the farm a lot–you’ll want to consider the Family Fun Pass. You’ll get an unlimited field pass to the Belleville and Grafton farms, $2 off admission to the Millstadt Farm, four free tickets to the Millstadt Farm, plus coupons and special deals throughout the year. It’s a $150 value for $75.
Map out your Adventure
You might think you’re heading to Eckert’s for just one thing: picking apples. Or peaches. Or strawberries. Or pumpkins. Whatever. But the truth is, many fruit seasons overlap, and Eckert’s has added things like flowers and veggies to pick and mazes to walk through!
One fall we tried to get apples AND pumpkins and it was a logistical nightmare. Three bags of apples plus three giant pumpkins divided by one camera toting mom, one teen and one child makes for a huge workout. (And a lot of grumbling from the youngest!)
Make sure you have enough hands and muscle to get all your goodies on and off the tractor. It’s ok to make two trips out to the field.
Fruit is sold by the pound
Apples and peaches are surprisingly heavy! If you don’t want to end up with $50 dollars worth of fruit, try to slow the kids down by picking only the perfect specimens…and posing for lots of pictures!
Feel free to sample the fruit
Seriously, it’s probably why they charge $2 to access the fields these days. Sampling fruit in the orchard also keeps the kids from putting every single apple or peach in the bag. Bonus tip: if your kid only eats peeled or cut apples, or hates peach fuzz, pack a clean pocket knife to slice fruit on the move.
Plus, if you’re not a home gardener, this might be your kid’s only chance to see where food comes from. Biting into a freshly picked apple will remind kids that food doesn’t just magically appear in their pantry.
Make kids carry their own bag
This might keep them from trying to take the whole tree home. Plus, it leaves your hands free for taking pictures!
Wear a hat and sunblock
Fruit trees are surprisingly short and don’t provide much shade. Wear a hat…not a box. (Ok, my kid is just weird.)
Bring a water bottle
Though Eckert’s does provide free water, it’s located at the wagon drop off/pickup area. We once got lost in the orchard and it took a while to find the wagon. Water would have been nice! We always pack water when head out in the summer!
Watch out for toys
When you’re done picking you’ll exit the orchard area through the garden shop. Which has a toy department. You’ve been warned.
Come during the week
Weekends get pretty crowded, if you can swing a weekday visit you’ll get the orchard practically to yourself. We like to pick fruit on school half days!
But weekends have more activities!
Some kids will think the best part of visiting Eckert’s is the wagon ride out to the orchards. But if you don’t mind a crowd, check Eckert’s schedule for family fun weekends. They’re famous for throwing country festivals around each and every fruit season!
Stop for an ice cream…er, frozen custard
Or lunch. Eckert’s is only “20 minutes” from St. Louis. But that means a 30 or 40 minute drive for a lot of St. Louis County moms. Make the most of your trip by planning to have ice cream or lunch. They have an excellent frozen custard stand!
Pick up dinner
Eckert’s Belleville location has a nearly full service grocery store. After a hot and sweaty day in the fields you can bring home a fried chicken dinner or some meat for the grill. And pie. Don’t forget the pie!